How to Cook Nyonya Kapitan Fish

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When I gave up my IT career back in 2002 to get into “this food thing” – as it’s disparagingly referred to by some in my family-  it wasn’t out of any altruistic reason so much as it was a way for me to recreate my memories of Malaysia through its food.

A dozen years on, thanks in large part to no longer having to run a restaurant, I’ve managed to do more of the “fun stuff” associated with my work, including making numerous trips back to Malaysia.

In one of my recent travels there, I had the privilege, for the first time ever, to talk to local chefs and to get them to show me their cooking techniques and recipes.  This was a big deal for someone like me whose cooking skills were self-taught years after I moved to Australia – how divergent are the flavours in my dishes from their Malaysian sources?

This blog is the first in a series – not in any particular order – covering my interactions with these Malaysian maestros.

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Location: Shangri-La Golden Sands Resort, Penang

Chef: Adrian Lim

Dish: Nyonya Kapitan Fish

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Our stay at Golden Sands was something of a late change; we were originally hosted by its sister resort, Shangri-La Rasa Sayang next door.

When the filming schedule for the TV pilot we were making was extended by a couple of days in Penang, our sponsor, Shangri-La Hotels, offered for us to spend the extra days at Golden Sands Resort. This worked out great because Golden Sands Resort has some of the best pools and family-oriented facilities I’ve seen anywhere, and I had Noah travelling with me to Malaysia for the first time.

Baby Noah in a pool for the first time ever.

Baby Noah in a pool for the first time ever.

I found out just before the shoot that Executive Chef Adrian Lim would be doing Nyonya Kapitan Fish – we had filmed Chef Chai next door at Rasa Sayang doing Nyonya Kapitan Chicken the day before and I’d be lying if it didn’t cross my mind that we could end up with two very similar cooking demonstrations.

Chef Adrian Lim simultaneously dispersed my concerns and made me laugh when he said – “That’s okay – mine will be better!” Typical Penang bravado, I thought 😉

Executive Chef Adrian Lim

Executive Chef Adrian Lim

As it turned out, his recipe is vastly different to the one showcased at Rasa Sayang Resort, and the Mediaprima TV crew wasted no time in cleaning up the plate immediately after the filming wrapped, as further validation it was very, very good.

A few key points about the recipe –

–          This is a modern take on a signature Penang dish – from the cooking technique, where the fish fillets are pan-fried separately to the sauce, to the plating and presentation.

–          Ingredients such as chicken stock granules (which I use extensively in my cooking) and ketchup are used more often than you would expect in Malaysian cooking, and this is an example of it.

–          I’ve recently discovered an importer for Bunga Kantan (torch ginger flower, or what Malaysians refer to as Lily Bud) – one of the ingredients for this dish, also used in Assam Laksa – and I’m trying to find out if I can get my hands on them here in Sydney (they’re available in Melbourne)

–          The list of spices and herbs for this recipe looks extensive, but it’s not hard to cook – the technique basically boils down to sautéing all the spices and ground herbs, then adding coconut milk and adjusting the seasoning before serving it with separately-cooked fish.

Daunting number of spices and herbs that go into the dish.

Daunting number of spices and herbs that go into the dish.

–          The flavour should be a balance of sour, sweet and spicy, so tweak accordingly.

–          Don’t forget to apply the “agak-agak” (guesstimate) principle to the recipe below, supplied by the resort 🙂

NYONYA KAPITAN FISH

180g Sea Bass Fillets

½ tsp Salt

½ tsp Pepper

For the KAPITAN SAUCE –                            

20gm Ground Red Chillies

10gm Ground Lemongrass

60gm Finely chopped Onion

30gm Finely chopped Garlic

15gm Ground Turmeric

10gm Finely Chopped Lily Bud

3pcs Finely Chopped Bird’s Eye Chillies

Sugar to taste

Tamarind Juice  to taste

Lime Juice to taste

20ml Thick Coconut Milk

30ml Tomato Ketchup

20gm Spring Onion

Me showing off something I didn't cook

Me showing off something I didn’t cook

 

Baby Noah at breakfast at Golden Sands Resort, Penang. He learned how to say "Gah" and was saying it the whole trip. No, I don't know what it means either.

Baby Noah at breakfast at Golden Sands Resort, Penang. He learned how to say “Gah” and was saying it the whole trip. No, I don’t know what it means either.

 

What a beautiful backdrop at our Golden Sands Resort shoot.

What a beautiful backdrop at our Golden Sands Resort shoot.

More re: baby Noah can be found at my www.SerembanGirl.com blog.

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